Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Red Snappers Are Red Rated
April 22, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

As of today, Whole Foods will no longer sell red rated fish, and will sell only sustainable species. Some fishermen are fuming. “It’s totally maddening,” Mr. Sanfilippo said. “They’re just doing it to make all the green people happy.”
posted by Xurando (118 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know whether my reflexive anti-snob attitude or my gut feeling that this makes a lot of sense should carry the day on this one.

An aside: who are "green people," anyway?
posted by anewnadir at 4:47 PM on April 22, 2012


I understand their frustration, but "green people" are kind of you know WF's target demographic. It's --

Wait, octopus are red rated? NOOOOOOO
posted by Auguris at 4:48 PM on April 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


yeah, someone has to start saying enough. We are killing the oceans. Full Stop.

We need to massively scale back our fishing operations if we want to keep fish there.

Full Disclosure: I worked for Whole Foods for a long damn time, so I might be biased.
posted by roboton666 at 4:49 PM on April 22, 2012 [26 favorites]


sustainable species. Some fishermen are fuming. “It’s totally maddening,” Mr. Sanfilippo said. “They’re just doing it to make all the green people their customers happy ”

FTFY. HTH. HAND.
posted by eriko at 4:51 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I shop at sprouts, which is similar to what whole foods was back when it was just this place off campus, and I hope they do they same thing. Just as a time saver to me so I'm not standing at the butcher counter looking stuff up.
posted by dejah420 at 4:53 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


An aside: who are "green people," anyway?

Well, soylent green are p--

I've said too much.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:55 PM on April 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Seems like they are pandering to their customers. Or said in another way, "Fuck yeah, Whole Foods!" Can't wait until they open in Des Moines.

I'm so there as long as their shrimp has eyes.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:57 PM on April 22, 2012


There's probably many types of not endangered fish that is fit for human consumption, so why aren't they fished instead of endangered ones?

Probably, it's just because of entrenched habits - but habits are not always that hard to change; after all, consider that some industry dictate what is to be consumed (as opposed to disproved theory that industry necessarily react to a pre-existing demand, some industry just create a need and, hence, the demand).

So what if restaurants started offering whatever fish is presently available, as opposed to asking fishermen to seek for some specific kind of fish?

This would probably reduce unmarketable bycatch, thus reducing waste, but also easing pressure on specific endangered species.

Customers only have to try new types of fish, get used to the fact your favourite fish is not always "in season" or "at a reasonable price" and discover there are many other species they may like.
posted by elpapacito at 4:59 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are green people shopping at Whole Foods? Why?
posted by DU at 5:04 PM on April 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah this seems to be an unmitigated good. There was a great, sidebarred comment about the fisheries a while back and how the problems are more difficult to solve than they seem to be. But at the end of the day, as I understand it, fishermen are going to go out of business either because the market changes or because the fisheries collapse. There's no option where everyone gets to stay in business in perpetuity, regardless of what 'green people' do or don't think.
Probably, it's just because of entrenched habits
Also because many of the overfished populations are delicious. Look at the species on that list: Chilean sea bass, Atlantic cod, flounder, hake, halibut, lake Michigan lake trout, and many others. Compare with sustainably farmed tilapia, which isn't terrible, but simply isn't in the same league.
posted by kavasa at 5:06 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


There may be overlap between green people and the type who follow labor issues, but they are not necessarily the same people.
posted by hermitosis at 5:06 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Awww, man. I wish one of these was near me.
posted by XMLicious at 5:07 PM on April 22, 2012


Also because many of the overfished populations are delicious.

Delicious is relative to the perception of a person; for instance, vegetables usually are not very much liked by kids (as well as by adults), while some people adore the taste (but are not necessarily vegeterians) and there are many ways to make them more interesting, more "delicious".

Other stuff, such as meat, if not properly seasoned and cooked just tastes like...meat...and meat doesn't taste that great "as it is". Some cuts of meat just taste "gamey" and not many people like it, but just add some flavours and it instantly becomes a lot better.

The trick is not the ingrendient, rather the combinations and the cooking.

So, not endangered fishes can taste delicious, it's just a matter of presentation and cooking.
posted by elpapacito at 5:11 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fishing industry has this catchy song that there is also a fun dance to! It goes like this:

"Na na na na na na na na na"

while you close your eyes with your fingers in your ears and thrash around like a dolphin caught in a drift net.

Totally fun!
posted by clvrmnky at 5:11 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where are all the fisherman who understand that it is in everyone's interest to conserve the ocean's fisheries? Not a single quote in that article betrayed the presence of the nuanced concept that unrestrained fishing of the world's oceans might not be the brightest idea in the ol' idea box. Did the NYT just talk to the short-sighted fishermen, or are those the only ones that exist?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:12 PM on April 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Green" sustainability is simply trying to keep what we enjoyed yesterday on our tables today and tomorrow and so on.

Conservation is making sure the oceans are still giant biotic incubators 10 years from now.

It is, from what I'm seeing, too late. Over fishing, ocean acidification, and warming would all be pretty bad on their own. Compounding this is and seething mass of consumptive humanity (and their elected governments) woefully disconnected from its disparate and downtrodden productive majority. Its the end of the world as we knew it, now have some calimari before the imitation shit becomes the norm.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:14 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


George Bush doesn't like green people.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:14 PM on April 22, 2012


“We’ve been murdered,” said Russell Sherman, who sold his entire catch to Whole Foods for the last six years and is seeking new buyers. “It’s not fair at all.”

"Why won't they let us destroy our own industry and environment as we've been steadily trying to do for decades?"

Also the sheer balls of comparing by-catch issues from line-fishing to trawling to say "Nothing's perfect" is quite breath-taking. Industry groups: Fighting Facts, Progress, and any attempt at meaningful Regulation since forever.
posted by smoke at 5:16 PM on April 22, 2012 [32 favorites]


There are green people shopping at Whole Foods? Why?

Are green people supposed to automatically support labor unions? I don't shop at whole foods, but I can't say this policy of theirs bothers me. I shop at Trader Joe's, which is also a non-union business. curiously, it pays above union scale and I have the strong impression that's it's an awesome place to work.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:17 PM on April 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


If the fishermen knew so much about the state of the fisheries then we wouldn't have gotten to this point, would we? Commercial fishing is a hunting business. Ocean-caught fish are a wild food. These guys aren't ecology experts. Their job is to hunt as many wild animals as they can. They are not ecology experts.

If we were talking about deer or buffalo then the effects would be easy to see - we could probably agree that it would be madness to have organized commercial hunting parties riding rustbucket jeeps through the forests demanding the right to take as many deer as they could bag. But because fish are under the surface where no one can see them, the fisherman (under the guise of culture or history can make precisely that demand and garner power support. Scott Brown has taken a similar position on fisheries as his position on global climate change - why listen to scientists? Listen to the fisherman who depleted the stocks to begin with! Brown isn't alone - Kerry, Snowe, Frank, and other New England politicians have all bent over backwards to find ways to make these guys less bound by regulations designed to keep the New England fisheries from becoming a wasteland.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:18 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did the NYT just talk to the short-sighted fishermen, or are those the only ones that exist?

C'mon. The fisherman/hunter/farmer/polluter/industrialist/miner/executive who will scream and holler at any limits on their activity, right until they've slaughtered, excavated, hunted down and exhausted the very last resource, specimen, limited good - they're a dime a dozen. When their particular resource is gone - whether whales, fish, a dodo, a mastodon, oil, coal, potable water, then they suddenly fall silent and slink away. Why do they do it? Because they don't give two fucks as long as it fills their wallet with loot. After us, the deluge. I got mine and fuck the rest.
posted by VikingSword at 5:19 PM on April 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


So, not endangered fishes can taste delicious, it's just a matter of presentation and cooking.

On the one hand this is true. On the other hand, it's also true that a lot of overfished species are delicious, too, and can be made even more delicious than some of the sustainable species. Cod is better than tilapia.

I, for one, am very happy about this. I like seafood, but figuring out what should and what should not eaten is a chore, given the differences between fisheries and catch methods, etc. Making easier is a big improvement.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:21 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because they don't give two fucks as long as it fills their wallet with loot.

aka, the tragedy of the commons.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 5:21 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Their job is to hunt as many wild animals as they can. They are not ecology experts.

Do you know anything about hunting? The amount of hunting permits given out every year changes based on shifts in animal populations, with an eye toward stable, sustainable patterns. Land hunters seem to understand this. Why should ocean "hunters" be held to a lower standard?
posted by hermitosis at 5:22 PM on April 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


Customers only have to try new types of fish, get used to the fact your favourite fish is not always "in season" or "at a reasonable price" and discover there are many other species they may like.

Consider the "slimehead." After it was renamed to the much more palatable "orange roughy," it was fished to near-extinction within a few decades, and is now on the endangered list.

It's not really a matter of just finding different types of fish to deplete.
posted by malocchio at 5:22 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, it looks like I won't go shopping at Whole Foods when it's time to play Wheel Of Fish.
posted by stannate at 5:23 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I pretty much quit eating seafood a while back, because even when I'm eating supposedly okay kinds of seafood, the way in which it is caught generally means that there's a giant sweep of the ocean and everything that isn't okay is just discarded.

There's much to hate about our current model of extracting food from water. It's a shame that it is thus, but so it is.
posted by hippybear at 5:28 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


“They’re just doing it to make all the green people happy.”

That's probably a good idea.
posted by MrBadExample at 5:30 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Many to blame here. At the top: international, national, regional, and local institutions must do what is in their powers to restrict overfishing and protect vulnerable populations. In the middle: the fisherpeople and harvesters who go out and collect the product. At the bottom: the purchasers and consumers who create the demand for the product. It's not just shadowy forces who are destroying the oceans, it's also first-world food consumers. I mean, who eats red-rated fish and why?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:38 PM on April 22, 2012


It's not really a matter of just finding different types of fish to deplete.

I agree that it is not JUST a matter of finding a different type, obviously some kind of quantitative limit must be set, or anything can be overfished to extinction.

Consider bycatch (fish that is caught in the net, but thrown away because it's not marketable, not because it is not fit for human consumption): bycatch = cost for a fisherman, for once you have fished it, you have incurred in a sunk cost of fishing (fuel, manpower, maintenance, whatever). Therefore, to recover that cost you either 1. raise fish price 2. fish more marketable species ; either way that bycatch is dead.

So in order to keep the price of fish reasonably "low" (that is, low enough to be accessible for as many customers as possible) one needs to go industrial - hence megatrawlers, who kill small fishermen competition and experience immense pressure to fish to recover their higher costs (and can also afford to buy lobbists).

What if small fishermen just found enough market to live by reducing the "bycatch" part of what falls in their nets? Their probably could also afford not to use the "scrape anything" tactics of megatrawlers.
posted by elpapacito at 5:39 PM on April 22, 2012


Oh goodness, where to begin trawling this rich vein?

“They’re just doing it to make all the green people happy.”

The green people. There are lots of green people. I will digress for a moment.

We cannot have a discussion about sustainability (green people) without having it in the context of the opposite of sustainability – unsustainability. Perhaps this is too close for a healthy amount of detachment as I have been a sustainability professional in the United Kingdom for the last five years.

There is a lot of talk of green this and green that. Of renewable energy. Of sustainability. Yet, it is constantly spoken about as [property] + [sustainability]. Energy + Renewable, Food Production + Sustainable, Marketing + Green. As if sustainability is an adjective modifying a larger industry. That is very convenient messaging for entrenched industries using traditional methods.

There was a great talk in London by a fellow who said drop the 'e' from eCommerce. If you're wondering how to compete with eCommerce, you will lose, for you are considering it to be a different kind of commerce from that which you practice, when in reality, it is the same. eCommerce is your competitor. Now, I don't know a lot about eCommerce. But I do know about sustainability.

To my clients, I say that sustainability is not an added value. When they ask me for a sustainable business strategy, they are asking me for a business strategy. When they ask for a plan as to their firm's interest in renewable energy, they are asking me for an energy plan. When they ask me for a social sustainability plan for employees, they are asking me for an HR plan. The lady doth protest but the lady is in fact wrong. If you are going to label some things as sustainable, then by default, that is which is not sustainable is 'unsustainable'. And that is the crux.

If it is not sustainable, then it is unsustainable. It's not a black and white argument. Some amount of oil production and consumption is sustainable. The current level is not. Some amount of ocean fishing is sustainable, the current level is not. And this is a very difficult concept, for either the composite result of your activities as a person, company, etc. are sustainable across all inputs and outputs, or they are not.

So let's attach the analogue to the green people, which are the brown people. There are green people, who actively reduce their impact on the environment and account for their externalities, and there are brown people, that do not. And there's a moralistic argument and framework already in place. Mental illness. A person that does not consider their impact on other people and simply uses them for their own benefit is a psychopath. It does not matter whether they realise they are a psychopath or not. They potentially produce very great externalities for other people, and thus the definition fits.

In the case of these angry fisherman complaining about green people, I will call them brown people. And I will say that they do not care about their impact on the world around them as much as they care about themselves. Whole Foods has made a rational decision based on their ethics, values, and consumer base, and in essence it's a commercial decision. The reaction by these fisherman illustrates the personality problem at the very core of the sustainability problem. That the 'traditional' way is an acceptable practice and Whole Foods is demanding a modified practice.

The traditional way is destroying life in the oceans. The traditional way is threatening the existence of humanity in a very real way. I'm not going to say the Earth, because as Carlin said, "the earth will be fine". It's the people we have to worry about.

Thus their outrage that the traditional method is under fire. It's similar to the mentality of a slave owner -- but we've done it this way for years and it will ruin me if I have to pay these people.

In both cases, an individual's profit is coming at the expense of everyone else and the survivability of a system. Perhaps if we want to be cray about it, we can say that the fisherman have enslaved the fish. It doesn't really hold up, but it would work in an ad campaign directed at green people.

Quite simply, I am very pleased at this measure. And I do feel for the fisherman. Economic times are difficult. Jobs may be lost. There will be a human toll exacted. That is because those jobs and that human benefit exists unsustainably. And then end of unsustainability is going to be market-based as well as from system collapse. In fact, on that point, if you want to have good fun, go to an oil conference and ask the oil industry when the industry will decline. "When the oil runs out."

Ha. Fat chance my friend. The oil industry is already in decline because it's too dangerous to continue. It has a negative effect -- not on a group of people somewhere in the world -- but on human life. And humanity is not dumb. We did not get where we are today by being stupid and unsustainable. Groups have taken that road (hello Rome, hello Aztecs) and they collapsed and failed. And humanity went on, because at the core of our subconscious and genetic programming is not unlimited consumption of blue fin tuna or Hummers. It's survival of the species. That which threatens the species will be removed.

And that is what's happening here. People don't want to live on a planet with no fish. So either you are going to fish sustainable or you are not going to fish. We put a hole in the ozone layer. So now, you either use chemicals that do not put holes in the ozone layer or you do not use chemicals.

When I entered sustainability, I was very glum about the prognosis. Doom and gloom, rising tides, no more fish, the world is over. Now I am quite pleased, for despite all of the negativity and fear, significant changes are occurring.

Whole Foods is a great one because Whole Foods forced the other grocery chains to compete on sustainability. Whole Foods never said "Safeway products are made out of xxx." What they said was "here's a list of things we do not buy". When people walked into a Whole Foods, it felt right. Earth tones, wood, mood lighting, happy employees. They liked shopping there. So people started going to Whole Foods for specialty items, as the fare there is quite a bit more expensive. Whole Foods saw it's marketshare explode. People started going back to the Safeway and saying "well, if Whole Foods doesn't carry those chemicals and a product is twice as expensive there, how can Safeway sell it so cheap and what is in it." The light went on.

During the financial crisis, Whole Foods did not see it's marketshare implode as much as was expected. Rather, they saw lots of consumers buy less... buying less of better. The core argument of sustainability. Less is more. Have better of less.

Now I feel for these fisherman, for they are people with families and whatnot and less volume is not good for their businesses, neither are higher prices and higher compliance costs. But that's cool because currently, they're unsustainable. Thus, they have to go. Some of them have reached the point where their businesses are no longer sustainable, thus they are at the frontline of sustainability. It's not the fish that are in the deepest trouble. It's people that think unsustainable is sustainable.

Someone once asked my opinion on this matter, for we were at sushi and I don't eat blue fin tuna. I love blue fin tuna. "Why don't you eat it?" Because I think a cheeseburger should be $25. I don't think people should eat cheeseburgers every day. Price in all the externalities, let the consumer price reflect the true sustainable cost, and let people adjust their diets accordingly. "So you think a cheeseburger should be a luxury?" Whatever man. I think you should care about keeping the planet somewhere that you want to live.

Now, and I say this as an American, America really needs to sort some thinking out about this. There is no future for America in a sustainable world, for the model of primacy of the individual is over. It worked SO well, we've managed to change the climate. It worked SO well, we've managed to destroy millions of lives around the world. It worked SO well, that we are emptying the oceans. It worked SO well, it doesn't work anymore. China is going to dominate the world in the future in part because they have a collectivist mentality. "We" are more important than "You". Europe found this mentality after World War II and it's the root of a lot of the social democracies here today. "We" in the UK have average healthcare for everyone. "You" in America may have the best care in the world or no care at all. It doesn't work anymore.

In Europe and China, governments are plowing money into supporting society's shift to sustainable industries. Job retraining. Subsidies. Remaking an economy of "We". And yes, it means less profit. And it means smaller houses. And it means smaller cars. And it means less for "You".

Apologies for the novel but This Is Important.

In the United States, that argument is lost. There's a chance of the country electing a private equity President for godsakes. The country is on the edge of collapse because people feel entitled to the "You" at the expense of the "We". And it's not going to work. It's unsustainable.

So as far as these fisherman are concerned, yes, they need to change. But they need help doing it. And that is where America is failing. Less private airplanes and walled estates in Connecticut. Less Bentleys and Champagne. And more help for fishermen that need to adapt their methods. Because the market is going to ruthlessly demand sustainability. You want to make a mint? Start an insurance company for low-lying coastal property. Nobody believes sea levels are going to rise, yet they are. It's not a matter of Belief and Jesus, it's a matter of the atmosphere, physics, and ice sheets. And as the market ruthlessly demands sustainability, working people like these guys are going to need help. I don't hate them (and I don't think they are psychopaths). I love them and I respect them. And I think they need help. I think your country needs to support the shift of these industries.

And can the country do it? Certainly. But it's going to require that a hell of a lot of people that are free riding as stock traders or hedge fund managers or plastic surgeons start addressing real problems and creating real value. That capital locked away, looking for huge returns so that fat cats can continue to be fat.. get less fat and start putting resources out there for the transition.

The current economic model is broken beyond repair and that is what these fisherman are saying. Unsustainability is a hard master and America really needs to get together around the problem. The first step is realising that this isn't a matter of fisherman who have financially unviable industries. It's that the entire way of thinking is unsustainable.

And what do we know about unsustainability? It leads to extinction. But probably not of the fish...
posted by nickrussell at 5:39 PM on April 22, 2012 [101 favorites]


organized commercial hunting parties riding rustbucket jeeps through the forests demanding the right to take as many deer as they could bag

I quite enjoyed my bachelor's party, thank you, but understand something like this is not for everyone.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:39 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


curiously, it pays above union scale and I have the strong impression that's it's an awesome place to work.

There's a Trader Joe's near my workplace. There's also a nearby bar I frequent where I see many of their employees drinking their lunch.
posted by jonmc at 5:43 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This FPP reads like a PR post for WholeFoods. It makes them sound like pioneers.

In reality they wanted to at least catch up to what Safeway has been doing for years.
posted by vacapinta at 5:43 PM on April 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Guess what fishermen... welcome to the American Economy's favorite game show. It's called Adapt or Die. There's been a paradigm shift in food going on for a while now and you apparently didn't get the memo. Time to shfit practices to where you're not just wiping out entire species by overfishing them.
posted by prepmonkey at 5:44 PM on April 22, 2012


Well, soylent green are p--

The nice thing about the Soylent products is that they are totally sustainable. As the "wild population" drops, so (mysteriously) does the demand for the product. If the demand rises, stocks have clearly rebounded. It may be the perfect food.

Well, except for the heavy metals and the antibiotics. And maybe kuru. But the R&D guys have got them licked, we promise.

Soylent products: You are what you eat!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:48 PM on April 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Guess what? Let's talk gleefully about a bunch of small fishermen, working in an unpleasant and precarious industry, getting pushed to the wall! Let's forget just how ruthless a country we live in, so that if your profession and your livelihood tank, you're pretty much screwed.

As a vegan and someone who, you know, reads the internet, I am dubious about the sustainability of any non-farmed fish at all, but that doesn't mean I'm going to sneer at someone who is dismayed and angry that his ability to make a living is gone - especially in the middle of the economic crisis.

Back when I was doing anti-nuclear-power-plant work, I attended a hearing where all of us "good" people spoke about how dreadful nuclear power was (and obviously, it is dreadful). What are we supposed to do to make a living, asked one of the plant employees. Our current jobs pay well and have good benefits. There was a silence, and then one of the "good" people said something about how the tourist industry was a wonderful thing and surely people would pay money to...hike, or swim, or something once the power plant and its supporter industries were closed down. At the time I tried to imagine these forty-five-year-old working class men and women going from jobs with benefits to slinging burgers at some seasonal tourist joint, and I couldn't.

If we want people to stop fishing, we have to have a society where quitting fishing doesn't spell economic ruin.
posted by Frowner at 5:51 PM on April 22, 2012 [35 favorites]



In reality they wanted to at least catch up to what Safeway has been doing for years.


Man, this is fantastic and I had no idea. Shopping for fish has been such a hassle between keeping an eye on every label to see if it's sustainably fished, and then figuring out which fish are generally going to be lowest in toxins. Safeway just took care of one half of that for me.
posted by curious nu at 5:54 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Land hunters seem to understand this. Why should ocean "hunters" be held to a lower standard?

Anglers understand this very well. Many have an entire code of ethics about what gets thrown back and what doesn't. Commercial fishermen aren't hunters, they're mass harvesters. The more they harvest, the more they make, and I guess some of them don't look to what the eventual result will be, probably because every option is pretty scary to them. There's little incentive to scrutinize if you're fishing to keep your home rather than for joy.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:55 PM on April 22, 2012


I'd love to see increased funding go to wildlife agencies to fund the employment of these skilled boat and equipment operators in jobs that restore fisheries.
posted by salvia at 5:57 PM on April 22, 2012


Consider the "slimehead." After it was renamed to the much more palatable "orange roughy," it was fished to near-extinction within a few decades, and is now on the endangered list.
Solution: rename all endagnered fish species with gross names. Bluefin Tuna? No, Boogerfish. Blue whales? What's that? I think you mean Barf whales.
posted by delmoi at 5:58 PM on April 22, 2012 [35 favorites]


Maybe they could go club some seals instead.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:01 PM on April 22, 2012


“It’s totally maddening,” Mr. Sanfilippo said “They’re just doing it to make all the green people happy."

They left out the part where he then dynamited a coral reef just to show how pissed off he was.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:02 PM on April 22, 2012


"Chilean sea bass. Spared no expense."

-John Hammond
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:07 PM on April 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have the strong impression that's it's an awesome place to work.

I like Trader Joe's as a customer, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most grocery store employees would prefer, say, benefits over the chance to wear wacky Hawaiian t-shirts and bask in the glow of retro font types.
posted by threeants at 6:10 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Guess what? Let's talk gleefully about a bunch of small fishermen, working in an unpleasant and precarious industry, getting pushed to the wall! Let's forget just how ruthless a country we live in, so that if your profession and your livelihood tank, you're pretty much screwed.
Why not? Every environmentally damaging industry provides jobs to people. Should we allow unlimited CO2 emissions to keep energy prices low so barely profitable companies that use a lot of electricity can stay in business? Should we keep deep-water drilling in order to provide Dangerfield jobs for random people? Had these people worked out sustainable regulations decades ago, they wouldn't be having problems today.
What are we supposed to do to make a living, asked one of the plant employees. Our current jobs pay well and have good benefits.
That's kind of ridiculous. If you shut down a nuclear power plant, you have to replace it with something else. Why couldn't those people get jobs installing solar panels or whatever? How many people even work at nuclear power plants? There are only 6,240 nuclear reactor operators in the entire country.

You can't make any kind of change to the economy without inconveniencing people.
posted by delmoi at 6:14 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe they could go club some seals instead.

Sealing and the cod fishery were actually very complimentary in Newfoundland. They, along with a short seabird egg harvesting season, allowed for almost year round employment.

But, moving on from the derail, good for Whole Foods. I have too many friends who were/are vegetarian except for fish.
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:18 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Delmoi, I think Frowner's point is more that the lack of a safety net in the US means that when established industries get shaken up, it's the people doing the hard and dangerous work for uncertain pay that get shafted the most.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:20 PM on April 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like Trader Joe's as a customer, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most grocery store employees would prefer, say, benefits over the chance to wear wacky Hawaiian t-shirts and bask in the glow of retro font types.
Someone mentioned wanting a Whole Foods in Des Moines. the popular grocery store in Iowa is Hy-Vee which is actually employee owned, so for someone who's going to end up working their whole lives in a grocery store working at a place like Hy-Vee is going to be far better then working somewhere like whole foods, since you actually get a retirement package and whatnot.

I don't know what their policies are on what types of fish you can get.
posted by delmoi at 6:20 PM on April 22, 2012


In Europe and China, governments are plowing money into supporting society's shift to sustainable industries. Job retraining. Subsidies. Remaking an economy of "We". And yes, it means less profit. And it means smaller houses. And it means smaller cars. And it means less for "You".

And it means fewer of you. Which is the one part of the discussion that is mysteriously absent from any and all green discussions. If the earth population was 1B, these would not be problems.
posted by rr at 6:24 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like Trader Joe's as a customer, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most grocery store employees would prefer, say, benefits over the chance to wear wacky Hawaiian t-shirts and bask in the glow of retro font types.

Who says you can't have both?
posted by anigbrowl at 6:30 PM on April 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


but that doesn't mean I'm going to sneer at someone who is dismayed and angry that his ability to make a living is gone - especially in the middle of the economic crisis.

Except that this has been coming, for a long long time. You don't have to be that well read to know what's happening in the oceans, and at this point, to be angry at there being limitations put on fishing is to be someone who literally does not give a damn about the future. Not just other people's kids, but your own, are going to suffer, unless we make changes.

I do feel bad for fishermen, but not so bad that I'm willing to sacrifice every ocean species just to keep them in business. Honestly I wish we could halt all wild fishing, period, for several decades so that stocks could begin to recover.
posted by emjaybee at 6:30 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Who says you can't have both?

Wow, I should have done my research. If those numbers are correct, that's pretty incredible for American retail work in this day and age. My apologies for being so off base.
posted by threeants at 6:37 PM on April 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


The traditional way is destroying life in the oceans.

You have a strange definition of "traditional", I must say. Since when sattelite-assisted bottom scraping trawlers (who's destruction can be visible from fucking space) has become a traditional way of fishing?

But setting all the environmental issues aside, I don't understand what the problem is to begin with. It's not Whole Foods business to keep the fishermen in business, is it? Surely WF is not the only place that buys fish?
I mean if, for example, oil industry was complaining that advances in solar tech were bad because they would put some oil men out of business, I'm sure everyone here would be pretty damn skeptical. How is this any different?
posted by c13 at 6:37 PM on April 22, 2012


And it means fewer of you. Which is the one part of the discussion that is mysteriously absent from any and all green discussions.
If there were 50 billion people on the planet, and no one ate fish, it wouldn't be a problem either. Seriously arguing that population reduction should be included in discussions about environmentalism is completely idiotic and counterproductive.

If you tell people that they have to chose between saving the environment and having children, they'll chose having children while gleefully destroying the environment, to the point where it supports human life and nothing else.

Not only that, but the countries with the worst environmental footprints (i.e. the developed nations) are also the ones with the lowest birth rates. As wealth goes up, fertility declines. As wealth goes down, environmental footprint declines.
Who says you can't have both?
Uh, the CEO of Whole Foods? which is the store this thread is about. I realize they got rid of that particular guy a while ago, but he was a hard-core libertarian Whole Foods has always been for treating employees like crap. Remember "The Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare". The argument was not for great benefits, it was for shitty ones where most health care costs would be paid by employees.

How employees are treated at Trader Joes has absolutly nothing to do with how they are treated at Whole foods, any more then the treatment of employees at the Nordstroms or Coach* tells anything about how they're treated at Wallmart.

(*from this list of supposedly best places to work in retail)
posted by delmoi at 6:39 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This needs to happen. There needs to be more of this, more regulation, more fishing subsidies (handled properly, obviously) more awareness of the finite number of certain species that are down there. (I say this as someone who would eat fish at least six nights out of seven if I could afford it.)

But I'm not going to put any blame on the fishermen for lashing out about this. I'm sure this is hurting them, hard, and that yes, to them, their livelihood just went out the window to serve the "whims" of environmentalists who, of course, don't know what their lives are like. Not that this perception is exactly accurate or fair, but I'm certain it feels true to some people who do in fact work their asses off and just had it suddenly be for nothing, or for at least a lot less.

I'm a terrible fisherman myself, but I know that it's about instinct and territory as much as anything, even for pulling in huge commercial hauls, and that doesn't translate as well as we might hope from one type of fish to another.

Change doesn't happen without people getting hurt, but I'm not going to flip the bird to those getting hurt for not changing their businesses sooner. I think conservationists could be a lot more effective if we showed greater sympathy to those having to make the riskiest changes to suit our demands.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:44 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


@rr:

And it means fewer of you. Which is the one part of the discussion that is mysteriously absent from any and all green discussions. If the earth population was 1B, these would not be problems.

Malthus, the 1700s called and they'd like you to get back into your time machine and return home. They think you've gotten too used to luxuries like plumbing, mass transit, and living past 40. But seriously, you roused me from bed with this little gem, so begrudged congratulations on that.

It's absent for a reason. Because it's a specious argument. The world's population was estimated at 1 billion in 1804. If you enjoy any aspect of modern life, it's because the world we have is a result of the contributions of billions and billions of hands and brains, not in spite of them.

And carrying capacity has a lot to do with it. The fact is, we are supporting almost 7 billion people today. And just as many are as obese as starving, thus we have problems of distribution, not production -- economics problems as opposed to science problems.

We are supporting 7 billion people and for the majority, life is better than it has ever been before. We are already living in the utopia Big Tom said was impossible. Now, we need to sustain it.

And that's fine. Consider the industrial age to be the tool that built the renewable age. The agriculture age was a the tool that built the industrial age, thus it follows that each technological age is the tool for the next. A hammer is not a house. You cannot live in a hammer (unless perhaps it is Thor's hammer) but you can use a hammer to build a house. That's what a tool is for. And that is what carbon energy is now for.

And to further smack your dead horse with a dead fish, the US used 9.5 hectares per capita in 2008. Norway used 7.0. By almost every measure of health, happiness, education, economy, and everything else, Norway is ahead of the US in terms of 'civilisation development'. Thus, we see that advanced societies using less resources are possible, and in fact, do exist today.

The earth's carrying capacity is 2.1, so Norway is still above that, however, we'll get there. Have no doubt. Look at the trends going on:

• Electronic media replacing physical media: Huge reductions in forests consumed, carbon produced, and land utilised.
• Maker bots will replace manufacturing: Huge reductions in carbon produced, transport required, toxic chemicals used, water used.
• Renewable energy replacing traditional energy: reduction in carbon required, arable land required, toxic pollutants. Solar and fusion is the future, and that is it. We're not there, but we will be. And when 'free' energy arrives, most other human problems will be mitigated. And it will be free.
• Lab-grown meat and skyscraper farms. Just as we can house more people in a city, once we put farms in cities, we knock out land use, transport, water use, etc.

So if you look at the trends, we haven't even scratched the surface of what the earth can carry with advanced technology. And remember, the only goal of humanity is to get off the earth and branch out. That is our destiny, and in quantum theory, it's already happened.

Finally, the discussion is not absent. Here, we have just addressed it. I address it quite often and hear it addressed quite often. And the way it is addressed is as above. Most of the time, I find the personalities of people with this argument are kind of a closeted greed. No one wants to come out and say, "I want less people so I can have more" but that's really what I've heard quite routinely. Not saying you are saying that, I don't know you. But More People is a Good Thing. It always has been, and it always well be.
posted by nickrussell at 6:50 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


@c13: You have a strange definition of "traditional", I must say.

Perhaps I should have used the word conventional, which is how Whole Foods categorises non-organic food. It shows you the problem with the labelling, that you have "conventional" and "organic", indicating that conventional is "not organic" -- how can food be not organic? -- and "organic" is "not conventional".

Regardless, satellites used to catch fish can be used by 'sustainable' fisheries or 'non-sustainable' fisheries. The same way a tractor can be used for 'organic' produce and 'conventional' produce. They're just tools. The difference is in how the tools are supplied. I'm not bothered if you build an observatory on the moon that tracks each individual tuna and zaps them with a space laser. Just as long as you do that in a sustainable way so that the populations of humans, tuna, and moon-dwelling aliens all can happily coexist.
posted by nickrussell at 7:00 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


But More People is a Good Thing. It always has been, and it always well be.

If we had 25 billion people we'd all be fucked.
posted by jaduncan at 7:13 PM on April 22, 2012


I agree with most of what you said there but I have to say that skyscraper farms have always seemed like an absolutely dumb hipster idea to me.

Balcony and rooftop gardens on a skyscraper that's being used for something else makes sense but how could there possibly be any practical reason to build an immense storm-and-earthquake-proof ferroconcrete structure and expend all of the energy to pump water and nutrients up n stories? Land just isn't in that short supply, certainly not anywhere outside of East Asia. Even at MegaTokyo-level population densities it seems like it would be an order of magnitude less expensive and resource-intensive to make floating farms or something like that.

And besides that, cities already have enough trouble getting fresh water as it is and bring it from hundreds of miles away... why increase by a multiple of n the amount of water that cities need?
posted by XMLicious at 7:14 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm by and large disappointed with the discourse on this thread - that there are commenters here thinking that fisherman " don't give two fucks as long as it fills their wallet with loot." Of the many madnesses in this thread, the main one is the notion that fisherman are doing anything but scraping out a damn tough living out of one of the few resources available to them.

Now, nickrussel said it best in one of the rare comments (yes, even on Metafilter) that isn't just out to score cheap points - "Yes, they need to change. But they need help doing it." But blaming the workers for it? That's just short-sightedly calling the wrong people the enemy.
posted by entropone at 7:17 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't agree with most of what you've written in your last two comments, nickrussell, but that's a discussion for another time. Be as it may, my main point was that the use of modern tools by the fishermen and their ability to stay in a profitable business, *as things stand right now*, is causing the collapse of the whole species of fish. The fact that *some* of the buyers are not ok with that, is certainly not a cause for complaint.
posted by c13 at 7:20 PM on April 22, 2012


why increase by a multiple of n the amount of water that cities need?

Isn't the point of skyscraper farms that they'll need far less water...and be able to recirculate their own? If they are not subject to the same rate of evaporation, erosion, and are secure enough from diseases and bugs not to need a shitload of pesticides, they could be much less wasteful than you seem to think.
posted by emjaybee at 7:21 PM on April 22, 2012


Meanwhile, Canada's largest supermarket chain (Loblaws) has pledged to "source 100% of all the wild and farmed fish sold in [its] stores from sustainable sources by year-end 2013". It's rather heartening to see more and more things with the MSC-certified logo in regular grocery stores. Though unfortunately I'm not seeing any sustainable sushi around town.
posted by parudox at 7:24 PM on April 22, 2012


It's more complicated than this story reveals. A lot of fishermen hate the Monterey Bay system and the Blue Ocean Institute because they focus on fishing impact by species, rather than by fishing methodology/technology or fishery scale. There can be sustainable levels of a species that still means that fishing them destroys their habitat through their catch methods or through the vast scale of the vessels or the fishing grounds.

Because the American consumer wants a simple, feel-good system that lets them choose red, yellow, or green rather than understanding the complexities of a complex system, some very "good," community-connected, responsible and small-scale fishermen harvesting in healthy ways are finding the species they catch on the red list - when, in fact, as individuals on individual boats they are doing nothing wrong, working to improve their own fisheries and staying within legal limits. It is a bit of a problem.

It's not that the easy "buy this fish, not this fish" guides are wrong in spirit, or that the fishermen are wrong in their activities - it's that by prioritizing the goal of a single, simple message, a lot of nuance is lost and a certain number of good people and good initiatives get shafted.

And little by little schemes like these, endorsed by big powers like Whole Foods, make good people feel virtuous and think their purchases are solving a problem, when they're really not even touching the systemic problems - and often, punishing the people within the industry who ARE solving the problems.

New England fishermen in particular have borne a lot of the burden, since so many are small-scale and non-industrial but have been overrun and outfished by large-scale industrial fisheries. It kind of sucks, because this sort of system recognizes no middle path for them - the industrial-scale giants will survive, the independents will gradually go under.
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on April 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


@c13:

my main point was that the use of modern tools by the fishermen and their ability to stay in a profitable business, *as things stand right now*, is causing the collapse of the whole species of fish.

We're dancing around the point -- in fact, I think we agree spiritually. The tools are not the problem. The tools are a neutral quantity. The problem is 1) a lack of regulation of fishing stocks, and 2) lack of functioning economic incentives NOT to destroy the fish stocks. Often, hunters are great preservations for they survive of hunting, thus there must be game to be hunted. Kill all the buffalo and your days as a buffalo hunter are over.

In fact, I would posit that the fisherman and the fish are both under attack here. The fisherman probably don't want to overfish, but there's often trade leakage effects that come from countries without strong regulatory regimes. If there's a dude somewhere else in the world flipping fish out of the water with The Trawler From Hades, and he's in the same market at these fisherman, that becomes the lowest common denominator and they have to compete.

Chances are that these guys WOULD LOVE to protect their stocks and charge more and maybe work a bit less. But there are larger forces at work, thus their destroying their capital instead of living of the interest, so to speak. They may not be able to articulate that. Thus I think we are in complete agreement that they're using advanced tools to increase yields out of a desire simply to compete.

This reminds me of how when the Somali government collapses, their unguarded coastline started being attacked and overfished (amongst other problems). One of the initial goals of the pirates was to protect their fish stocks. Hijacking foreign vessels and demanding ransoms brought naval ships, which chased off illicit fisherman.
posted by nickrussell at 7:32 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


New England fishermen in particular have borne a lot of the burden, since so many are small-scale and non-industrial but have been overrun and outfished by large-scale industrial fisheries. It kind of sucks, because this sort of system recognizes no middle path for them - the industrial-scale giants will survive, the independents will gradually go under.

Well, to me this further shows that their ire is misplaced.
posted by c13 at 7:32 PM on April 22, 2012


People might be interested in reading the variety of views and related issues raised in the comments section of the Gloucester Times version of this story. It may give you a sense of why there isn't universal approval of this as either a big deal (there's no shortage of non-WF buyers) or an umitigated good in its impact on small-scale fishermen.
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on April 22, 2012


Well, to me this further shows that their ire is misplaced.

Why? When a big national retailer with a lot of credibility among environmentally-minded people endorses a scheme that unfairly characterizes the small-scale regional fishermen as an environmental criminal based on only one aspect (species) of a fishing practice with diversified impacts which vary region to region and fisherman to fisherman, I think it makes sense that they should express some irritation.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


While Whole Foods will still sell Pacific cod, he said, it will not appear much in the company’s New England stores for cultural reasons.
What does this mean, what are the cultural reasons?
posted by unliteral at 7:40 PM on April 22, 2012


Yeesh, not only that, but when you go into the detail on the Monterey Bay site, even they recognize Atlantic Cod as "Good alternative" when not caught by trawl. A lot of Atlantic cod caught off the Northeast US is not trawled - but you'd never know that by this characterization. It's just such a clumsy system. I understand why the fishing community is mad.

what are the cultural reasons?

I can't say for sure but I'm going to guess this just means that people don't want it.
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on April 22, 2012


New Englanders are going to be hesitant to buy Pacific cod when cod-fishing in their own region is a major industry, is I'm guessing the reason.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:44 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


From Miko's link:

The bottom line is that dragging made no discernable difference in the abundance and richness of organisms living on and within the sediment. We noted that within days, worm tubes and other biogenic structures had been rebuilt.

Whole Foods should recognize that upholding "sustainability" is far more complex than simply shunning a specific gear type. Whole Foods is doing its customers a disservice by denying them access to locally sourced New England groundfish with its blind adherence to a simplistic and unscientific rating system.


It sounds like the anger is coming from a system that 1) negatively impacts them, whilst 2) not doing what the system purports to do. The former is an inconvenience whilst the addition of the latter seems to turn it into an insult.

As far as the cultural issue: Alaskan Cod is readily available at a much cheaper price even though its previously frozen as most Alaskan product is.

Look like a fresh vs. frozen thing?

and there's a wonderful reference to and correction regarding Hippocrates in there as well...
posted by nickrussell at 7:50 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look like a fresh vs. frozen thing?

Partially. I can definitely say that standing in front a fish counter, I'll go for something never locally landed and never flash-frozen every time over something from the opposite coast, and I'm not alone in that. There's a reason they have to tell you where it's from.
posted by Miko at 7:52 PM on April 22, 2012


Isn't the point of skyscraper farms that they'll need far less water...and be able to recirculate their own? If they are not subject to the same rate of evaporation, erosion, and are secure enough from diseases and bugs not to need a shitload of pesticides, they could be much less wasteful than you seem to think.

But, do any of those technologies have anything to do with it being in a skyscraper? If we had all of the technology to do those things, why not just build it on flat ground? (Or, as I theorized, floating on the ocean so that it doesn't take up any land at all.)

At the very least I would think that, with the efficiency of LED grow lights, all of the energy spent running elevators and pumps and everything else would be better spent on nighttime lighting so that you'd have Alaska-like yields due to continuous growth cycles. Everyone else could get in on the twenty pound carrot Guinness records action.
posted by XMLicious at 7:57 PM on April 22, 2012


This list seems to have little to do with overfishing. I see lots of farmed fish on the red list, and a lot of wild caught on the green list.
posted by mullingitover at 7:59 PM on April 22, 2012


Why?

Why what? Why should they direct their anger at members of their own profession that put the whole industry in danger, let alone destroying whole species of fish and other sea life in their persuit of profit, instead of focusing on some business that has no obligations to keep fishermen employed? I don't know, maybe because it makes more sense?
Or do they really expect WF to differentiate fisherman Bob from fisherman Joe?
posted by c13 at 8:02 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


@mullingitover:

ATLANTIC FLATFISH
Most Atlantic flatfish, such as halibut and sole, have been overfished

Flatfish populations off the Atlantic coast have experienced heavy fishing pressure from domestic and international fleets over the last half-century. Many species are at very low levels, particularly Atlantic halibut, witch flounder and yellowtail flounder.

Depleted populations and the use of destructive trawl gear mean that most Atlantic flatfish - winter flounder, witch flounder, windowpane flounder, yellowtail flounder, American plaice, Atlantic halibut and southern flounder - are ranked "Avoid." In contrast, summer flounder populations have been well-managed and are increasing in size, making this species a "Good Alternative."

posted by nickrussell at 8:06 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why should they direct their anger at members of their own profession that put the whole industry in danger

They do direct their anger that way. It happens, though, that the largest, most consolidated ownership groups in the fishing industry weigh in on the side of large national markets and corporations, so the enemy here is really a common one. It's not really an intra-fisheries dispute, it's a small-scale operator vs. a big-conglomerate dispute.

Or do they really expect WF to differentiate fisherman Bob from fisherman Joe?

I think they do, if only because that's the way the industry ran for about 400 years. The communications problems that arise from a policy like this are ones endemic to the need to market something nationally - they're not endemic to a small-scale fishery itself. For instance, in the city I did a lot of fishing-related work in, I definitely did know Fisherman Eric from Fisherman Damon from Fisherman Padi, and in most fishing economies until the last couple of decades, fish buyers certainly did know owner-operators and fishermen by individual name and vessel. The fact that these industries are now scaling up in to commodity markets, aided by recent fisheries policy, means that there need to be ever more crude distinctions made.
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This list seems to have little to do with overfishing. I see lots of farmed fish on the red list, and a lot of wild caught on the green list.

This is because most farmed fish - with the notable exception of Tilapia - are generally given food made from wild-caught fish, and it take a lot more of them to make one farmed fish.
posted by smoke at 8:15 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


...Also, one might fairly note that Whole Foods has found it to be effective marketing to distinguish among fishermen and vessels, with their premium-marketed Pigeon Cove facility in Gloucester and the individual boats and fishermen they have asked to be the face of their retail seafood operation for years. It seems to me that if they can distinguish among the individual fishermen when it's time to market the product retail, they can certainly do when it's time to buy the product wholesale.
posted by Miko at 8:17 PM on April 22, 2012


Knock-on effects seem to be a reason farmed fish ends up on the Avoid List:

Many of Mexico's shrimp farms are located along the Gulf of California coast - a unique and vulnerable ecosystem. These farms are adjacent to sensitive coastal wetland and mangrove habitats, and despite leaving mangroves largely intact, the ecosystem is impacted by water and effluent from these farms. Because shrimp ponds in Mexico are open to the environment and still suffer from disease outbreaks, they risk transferring disease and parasites to wild populations.

Due to these concerns, Seafood Watch consumers should "Avoid" farmed shrimp from Mexico.

posted by nickrussell at 8:19 PM on April 22, 2012


I think they do, if only because that's the way the industry ran for about 400 years

Well, but WF did not exist for 400 years. We have a national market now, where the stuff that used to work for 400 years doesn't anymore. I'm not prepared to argue whether this is for the better or worse, but I'm pretty sure not many of these fishermen wil be willing to go back to the way things and incomes were before.

It seems to me that if they can distinguish among the individual fishermen when it's time to market the product retail, they can certainly do when it's time to buy the product wholesale.

You seriously think that marketing several individual fishermen and marketing all of them is the same thing? Look at the whole "organic" label mess, do you really expect WF to create another one for fish?
posted by c13 at 8:25 PM on April 22, 2012


Everything I've said above should not be interpreted as a defence of WF. Maybe I'm too synical, but I don't think their fish list is anything other that another marketing gimmick.
posted by c13 at 8:43 PM on April 22, 2012


delmoi writes "Solution: rename all endagnered fish species with gross names. Bluefin Tuna? No, Boogerfish. Blue whales? What's that? I think you mean Barf whales."

I don't know how effective that'll be; sperm whales for example are vulnerable. Of course they also eat more seafood than humans so maybe we should be killing them off /HAMBURGER

delmoi writes "How many people even work at nuclear power plants? There are only 6,240 nuclear reactor operators in the entire country."

Operators aren't the only people employed at power plants. I wouldn't be surprised if the non-operator to operator ratio is 10:1 or higher even just considering people directly employed by or at the nuclear power plant. It'll take a lot of security guards, electricians, divers, janitors, radation mitigation specialist, etc to support each operator.

Maybe they could go club some seals instead.

The current seal hunt is currently sustainable (one of a few large scale, commercial, wildlife harvests that are) but part of that means limiting the hunt; you can't just dump a huge influx of new harvesters into that hunt and expect it to continue.
posted by Mitheral at 9:03 PM on April 22, 2012


The trick is not the ingrendient, rather the combinations and the cooking.

So, not endangered fishes can taste delicious, it's just a matter of presentation and cooking.


I like Salmon quite a bit more than I like Tilapia. I don't care how the latter is prepared.

Don't go off telling people what they're sensing, or what they like. You're not likely to be correct.
posted by effugas at 9:07 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed. I appreciate what cooking can do as much as anyone, but a sashimi-lover can tell you there's a big difference between the base tastes of different fish, without any other ingredients involved.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:25 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hearby rename Asian Carp to Awesomesauce Fantastifish. Come fishers and trawlers and bow-hunting rednecks and fish the everloving fuckers right out of the.Mississippi watershed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:45 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's about time. And they should stop selling 1-rated chickens and beef. What is the point of making a scale and then selling the lowest achievers?
posted by oneironaut at 12:40 AM on April 23, 2012


I like Salmon quite a bit more than I like Tilapia. I don't care how the latter is prepared.
Don't go off telling people what they're sensing, or what they like. You're not likely to be correct.


Oh, it's not about me telling people what they "really" are sensing, I'm not into the make believe business (but some are).

Try eating something while keeping your nose closed, you may notice the taste has changed.

Or try a blind taste. I have done both and I was suprised to discover I think I knew how to tell which is which, but that's not always the case for me.
posted by elpapacito at 2:16 AM on April 23, 2012


@c13: Everything I've said above should not be interpreted as a defence of WF. Maybe I'm too synical, but I don't think their fish list is anything other that another marketing gimmick.

I think you are being too cynical -- and that is said with respect.

The 'problems' of production and supply are really problems with demand and consumption. We live in market economies, where supply adjusts and adapts to consumption. The quantity of demand adjusts and adapts to the price of supply, however in a very real way, the end consumers determine the supply chain, and its impacts.

A great illustration of this was the posts last week on drug legalisation in Latin America. No intervention on the supply side has proven to be anything but a complete human and ecological disaster, for 1) as long as the United States has an unquenchable demand for drugs, and 2) domestic production is prohibited, supply will be generated in the next convenient place for supply to be generated. In the case of drugs, that happens to be Latin America, where USD-denominated drug profits overrun the capabilities of local governments. Hence, the proposal in Latin America to legalise production. If the United States is not going to either 1) reduce demand (talk about a conversation for another time!), or 2) allow production (the ideal), Latin America is going to manage the supply in a way which is generative to their economies rather than destructive.

With fish, it's the same thing. The system may be gimmicky at best, and obtuse at worst, however it does provide information from the supply side to the demand side, so that consumers can begin making better choices. It's not perfect by any means, but it's like all feedback mechanisms, even basic, imperfect feedback is better than no feedback.

And Whole Foods does have slick marketing, and they do engage with a relatively posh consumer base for whom these are lifestyle decisions, however we must look at the effects. If Whole Foods use of this imperfect signalling system modifies demand so that even minor gains in sustainability are achieved, has it been a success? I would say it's more successful than no signalling at all.

The stoplight interface is an easy interface. Green means go. Yellow means caution. Red means stop. If that engages consumers to modify their purchasing choices, the supply chain will evolve to serve more 'green' purchasing than 'red' purchasing. In fact, that seems to be at the crux of the article. Fisherman are up in arms because Whole Foods is curating the supply side. Whole Foods would not be able to curate the supply side unless they had a strong foundation with customers to do so. Thus, I assume that the signalling system is effective enough to enable Whole Foods to put pressure on the supply side. By extension, that pressure is really coming from the consumers themselves, regardless of if they could articulate that proposition.
posted by nickrussell at 3:59 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I carry a little foldable Monterey Bay Aquarium pamphlet around in my wallet, and I work (and frequently dine) with fisheries conservation people- and even with a decent understanding of the issues, it's damn hard to know if any given fish being served is sustainable or not. I've seen colleagues make waitstaff seriously sweat, since it's not hard to declare something "sustainable", when the people at the end of the supply chain don't have the time to really know or care about fishing methods. We've gotten to the point where a company like Whole Foods providing this filter really is a service.
posted by bendybendy at 5:19 AM on April 23, 2012


oneironaut writes "And they should stop selling 1-rated chickens and beef. What is the point of making a scale and then selling the lowest achievers?"

Depends on whether 1 is the lowest rating or merely the lowest rating WF will sell with lots of product that gets no rating because WF refuses to sell it.
posted by Mitheral at 5:39 AM on April 23, 2012


It's amazing how many champions of the free market don't seem to understand how the free market works.
posted by Legomancer at 5:48 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's amazing how many champions of the free market don't seem to understand how the free market works.

"I don't even know what that means.
No one knows what it means, but it's provocative
No, it's not
It gets the people going!"
posted by nickrussell at 5:58 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Depends on whether 1 is the lowest rating or merely the lowest rating WF will sell with lots of product that gets no rating because WF refuses to sell it.

Exactly. If you qualified for an olympic event, not medaling does not mean you're bad at it. It means you were only better than 99.99% of the athletes in that sport.
posted by eriko at 6:40 AM on April 23, 2012


I recently acquired a taste for canned fish - awkward, since ocean stocks are something I care deeply about. Whole Foods has let me eat canned fish with a minimum amount of guilt. I'm glad to see I can continue to do so.
posted by Vhanudux at 7:21 AM on April 23, 2012


I like Salmon quite a bit more than I like Tilapia. I don't care how the latter is prepared.

Don't go off telling people what they're sensing, or what they like. You're not likely to be correct.


I think the problem here isn't trying to convince people that one (common in grocery stores) fish is better tasting than another (common in grocery stores) fish species. I mean, I totally agree with you that salmon is the much much much better tasting fish.

The problem is that some things that taste good, are bad enough for the environment that they should be sacrificed from your diet.

I wish that I liked tilapia better because that would make the decision not to eat salmon* much easier.

Vhanudux - *I actually eat tinned salmon because I can get Alaskan wild-caught for fairly cheap (cheaper than frozen or fresh) and because I'm forced to eat the whole fish (which I think is kind of gross but I pick off the skin and mash up the bones) rather than the fillet which results in a lot of waste.
posted by hydrobatidae at 7:57 AM on April 23, 2012


I do think the population issue is relevant. But one that seems to be self correcting as we move people into a better standard of living. I don't think it's at all coincidental that birth rates fall as affluence increases. And, from a PR standpoint, the PRC's awful one child policy has made even discussing overpopulation and means of dealing with it a remarkably difficult task.

It is nice to see Whole Foods matching Safeway's former initiatives. And yes, I'm being deliberately snarky. I rather intensely dislike the WF CEO. Even my local Texas grocery store chain, has gotten MSC certified (though, regrettably, they do continue to sell some redlisted fish).

However, much as I'll gripe about greenwashing, I think it can have a long term positive effect.

As for the fishers, I do have quite a bit of sympathy for them. Being put out of business is no fun, and given the current lack of anything resembling a safety net in the US coupled with a decaying economy and fewer opportunities for work in general, I can see how they'd have a lot of bitterness.

OTOH, we're going to have to deal with that sooner or later, and the longer we wait the higher the cost will be. Better to get it over with and deal with the fallout.
posted by sotonohito at 8:00 AM on April 23, 2012


Hey guys, I hear that jellyfish are delicious nutritious willing to not kill us en masse just yet!
posted by Theta States at 8:36 AM on April 23, 2012


Well, but WF did not exist for 400 years. We have a national market now, where the stuff that used to work for 400 years doesn't anymore.

Welcome to New England, where "we've always done it that way" is a legit explanation for just about anything.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:36 AM on April 23, 2012


Why? When a big national retailer with a lot of credibility among environmentally-minded people endorses a scheme that unfairly characterizes the small-scale regional fishermen as an environmental criminal based on only one aspect (species) of a fishing practice with diversified impacts which vary region to region and fisherman to fisherman, I think it makes sense that they should express some irritation.
God, who even cares? Do we have to feel sympathy for everyone? These guys probably have it better then the vast majority of humanity. There's no god given right to be a commercial fisherman. If people don't want to buy the stuff you make, then you're going to have to find a different job. Okay, maybe it could be more nuance, but it's not -- tough tits, the world isn't fair and it never has been.
It sounds like the anger is coming from a system that 1) negatively impacts them, whilst 2) not doing what the system purports to do. The former is an inconvenience whilst the addition of the latter seems to turn it into an insult.
Why should I trust the fisherman's perception of whether or not the system works? It's obviously designed to be simple so that people will use it. Perhaps you could make it more nuance, but there are a couple problems. How do you guarantee that fish are caught in the way they claim? Obviously, that's really difficult. Verifying the species is simple and can be done at any point in the supply chain. On the other hand, a system based on the technique used to catch the fish would require tons of enforcement and monitoring. How much would that cost?

It's also something that consumers can easily understand, as opposed to distinguishing between different types of fishing.

The simplicity also makes it much easier to for people to adhere too. I'm sure fishermen would prefer a system that was easy to cheat and no one used to one that was hard to cheat and confusing or opaque for customers.

But instead we have one that actually works, and as a result they've lost business. Why should anyone else care? It's like a bunch of buggy whip makers whining about change, except it's like the reason no one wants to buy buggy whips any more is because the buggy whip tree is going extinct due to clear cut forestry.

But whatever the reason people don't want to eat that stuff. The alternative would probably a generalized retreat from seafood entirely. I don't see anyone crying about how "Pink Slime" manufacturers are going bankrupt because no one wants to eat it any more. And why should they?
posted by delmoi at 10:16 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where are all the fisherman who understand that it is in everyone's interest to conserve the ocean's fisheries?

Uh, on shore, having lost/sold their boats?

I live in Rhode Island, where there are still commercial fishermen: if you go to the beach at Galilee you can see them coming in, and buy lobster right off the boat at the docks. Anyway, our local media covers this and, while I can't say whether they're crying poor or legit, I do hear that their fishing season is getting cut shorter again. Their industry is really hurting, but the vast Russian factory ships just keep sucking up the fish.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:16 AM on April 23, 2012


Wait, how are Russian factory ships sucking up Rhode Island stock?
posted by Theta States at 11:03 AM on April 23, 2012


I don't think many people realize how big a problem overfishing is. Our grandchildren will probably never eat an oceangoing fish (other than little guys like sardines and herring). All fish will be farmed in tank systems, or unbelievably expensive. Eating wild-caught tuna and salmon will be as rare a treat as eating big game today. It's not really anyone's fault, though -- just a consequence of the fact that the oceans aren't owned by any one country, so no government has the power to regulate them effectively.
posted by miyabo at 1:06 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not really anyone's fault, though -- just a consequence of the fact that the oceans aren't owned by any one country, so no government has the power to regulate them effectively.

One doesn't even need to go so far to find how difficult it is to ocean regulate fishing. After all, every country's individual government could decide not to engage in certain practices, restrict the amounts, season etc. But while we can all cry for the fishermen who are losing jobs, the fact is that they're an extremely powerful lobby. Take the example of Japan and whaling. Why does a rich country like Japan need to hunt whales at all? It's not some vital source of food without which anyone would go hungry in Japan. Japan is an advanced, highly developed country. They understand the importance of protecting the world's ecology. They have a vivid and powerful history of seeing the consequences of industrial ocean pollution (the mercury poisoning Minamata Bay Disaster). Japan has long experience with fishing and understands stock depletion. So why do they insist on a shameful and barbaric practice of whale slaughter that is a PR disaster if nothing else? How much money can we be talking about? Is it really worth it? If they can't even cut out something as economically trivial as whaling, what chance is there with huge fishing industries?

And there you have it. Japan can't stop itself from a horrific practice with negligible economic returns. So how surprised should we be that the world's oceans are being depleted with no end in sight?
posted by VikingSword at 4:37 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fisherman in Senegal may take up arms similar to Somali fisherman to combat Chinese and European overfishing

Between this and VikingSword's Japanese analysis, is the answer really to just sit by and let the seas be emptied, hoping Whole Foods can minimise a small fraction of the devastation?
posted by nickrussell at 5:17 PM on April 23, 2012


Wait, how are Russian factory ships sucking up Rhode Island stock?

In the US, we are only empowered to regulate fisheries to 200 miles off the mainland.

Fish, true to their migratory nature and the lack of clear national demarcation lines in the water column, don't observe this boundary. That means that enormous trawlers many times the size of local fishing boats are fishing the shallow banks just off the Northeast and basically cleaning out the fish stocks in international waters. Some of this trawling takes place in spawning grounds and migratory paths, so the impact of fishing here rather than there is quite uneven. Taking fish near a spawning ground has a huge downstream impact on both the maximum size and the future population of that species.

When the migratory fish return inshore where US law pertains, there are many less of them to start with. Then the inshore fishing activity begins. The inshore fishing activity ends up taking the blame, and suffering the regulatory consequences, for damage to populations done well outside US jurisdiction.

Well, but WF did not exist for 400 years. We have a national market now, where the stuff that used to work for 400 years doesn't anymore. I'm not prepared to argue whether this is for the better or worse,

I'm happy to go on record saying that it's demonstrably worse for a system like fisheries.

but I'm pretty sure not many of these fishermen wil be willing to go back to the way things and incomes were before.

But they actually are. The problem is that the US policy is not favoring them to connect locally and compete locally - it's seeking to commodify their licenses and fishing effort and make them compete nationally, when they would far rather land locally, make deals locally, and see their fish sold and eaten locally, reducing fossil fuel inputs and ensuring a commitment to local and political investment in their infrastructure. In New England we have a whole bunch of activist fishermen, like the ones quoted in some of these stories, who are seeking to transition to a new regulatory environment by responding with smaller-scale, limited, community-managed fisheries. The big national players in this system, such as Whole Foods and some of the policy nonprofits, are in fact making it harder for the people fishing in responsible, sustainable ways to reach a ready customer and make their practices and fishing choices and impacts clear. This muddies the waters for everybody.

I hear those of you who are concerned about fishing stocks. There are not all that many people who know or care more than I do about the impact of a century of maximized fishing effort on the waters of the North Atlantic. But it increasingly becomes clear that our present management system is not going to lead to stock recovery or sustainable yields - that's not even what it's designed for. You can have sustainable fisheries which are exploited by small-scale, locally owned vessels and crews, or you can have a national market with simple messages managed with commodity trading in licenses. But you can't have both. And the risks of the commodity system seem to me to seriously outweigh the risks of re-committing to small-scale, locally-owned and landed, premium-based and sustainability-incentivized local fisheries.

Unfortunately, most people aren't literate enough about this to even know what policy structure it is they want to be supporting. It's easy enough for those concerned with sustainability to perceive the difference between a small-scale, organic local dairy and produce farm and a big-ag, ADM-owned, water-hogging monoculture farm as long as it's on land. Once it sets to sea, most people are at a loss.
posted by Miko at 9:04 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


they're an extremely powerful lobby.

Not small-scale New England fishermen. They're pretty much the opposite of an "extremely powerful lobby." What is an extremely powerful lobby is the interests lined up behind a sector-based management system with publicly traded licenses and consolidated ownership groups managing multiple large vessels as an investment for cash yield - that group is well supported by the banking and oil industries, but they're opposed to the moves that the small-scale fishermen want.
posted by Miko at 9:08 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


English native speakers: please stop using 'less' with countable nouns. It makes small blood vessels in my face burst.

Thank you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:10 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, Stannis.
posted by Justinian at 9:13 AM on April 24, 2012


So sorry to have offended you by making a small grammatical error in a long, well-written, and well-informed comment. I will make less errors in future.
posted by Miko at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that stavros may be referring to nickrussell here saying things like "Rather, they saw lots of consumers buy less... buying less of better. The core argument of sustainability. Less is more. Have better of less." and "Less private airplanes and walled estates in Connecticut. Less Bentleys and Champagne."
posted by XMLicious at 2:45 PM on April 24, 2012


Just stop it, is all I'm asking.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2012


No, he's referring to me.

Just stop it, is all I'm asking.

Why does this matter to you? Why is this the place to express it? Why not Memail me? I have a degree in English; I copyedit manuscripts. Occasionally in the heat of discussion one slips by me. How much of a deal does this need to be? Does it really keep you up at night? How important is it to the future of MetaFilter to have less errors? Muchly important?
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on April 24, 2012


What makes you think I was talking to you? Or talking to anyone in particular for that matter? Given the number of times we've spoken directly to one another (a total of none, thus far, I think) why would you assume I was singling you out? Did you do it? Why are you so exercised about it? Did my very general comment bother you that much? Why so many questions?

Look, it just annoys the living shit out of me and it happens all the time, everywhere, and I made an offhand comment because the pot boiled over. So it goes.

It's not just important to the future of Metafilter, it is important to the future of HUMANKIND. If just one person catches themselves and uses 'fewer' in future, my work here will be done.

(I totally honestly did not notice who was saying what, by the way. I just read what seemed like about 10 instances in a row, and got all STAV SMASH.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:29 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Less derails is more nicer. No more less stuff now, thanks.]
posted by taz at 10:10 PM on April 24, 2012


Some background on the "[action] less, [action] better" message:

Eat less fish, from better sources
If we eat less meat, perhaps we can eat better meat
Wine: drink less, drink better
Meat: Less, better, and local
Eat less, and eat better

Eat fewer fish, eat better fish That sounds like eating fewer different kinds of fishes, doesn't it.

Eat fewer meats, eat better meat? Not really. That sounds like eating less types of different meat, not reduce overall meat consumption.

Drink fewer wines, drink better wine? Nope. Again, sounds like dropping the Pinot and the Merlot to favour the Cabernet.

Fewer derails, better derails? Yes!
posted by nickrussell at 3:03 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older Cowboy Bebop director Shinichirō Watanabe and comp...  |  In the silence of connection, ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments